Legendary heavy metal, the Becker BK-2 Campanion knife

Legendary heavy metal, the Becker BK-2 Campanion knife

Testing utility and durability of the Becker BK-2. Is the BK-2 a good choice for a wilderness survival knife?

The Becker BK-2 Campanion knife manufactured by KA-BAR® is one of blade designer Ethan Becker’s earliest big successes in more ways than one. The BK-2 is a big horse of a knife and it has long been a big seller. In the hands of a skilled outdoorsman, it’s a heavy weight performer for woodcraft–like a big draft horse in the reins of a pioneer plowman breaking new ground.

Becker BK-2 new2
The Becker Bk-2 Campanion knife manufactured by KA-BAR®. A quarter-inch thick, pounder-class blade supported by Becker’s trademark hard use handle design. Paraphrasing, This thing could field dress a Ford pickup!
Becker BK-2 new in sheath
A sturdy sheath for a big blade. The grommet and screw reinforced sheath offers some protections for the blade and the user during carry. The handle clasp snaps loudly over the forward handle knob, audible assurance the blade is secured in the sheath.

The hefty BK-2 plows through wood reductions for fuel preparation and shelter materials, and much more. It’s impressive conformance suits it for heavy general utility. It does most things well enough, nothing really, really well. That’s an acceptable functional description of a good wilderness survival knife. The price is right for a lot of knife, too. I bought mine a year ago, shipped to my door for under $75.00.

Big isn’t always best. I’d rather ride a nimble saddle horse all day then wrestle a trail ride out of a cumbersome draft horse. The BK-2 is a draft horse. Weighing in at one pound sans sheath makes it a pounder-class blade. That puts it among small machetes and small hatchets and hawks when considering tools selections. It’s not a casual carry knife, for me, not for most circumstances, anyway. Rather, this is a sturdy tool for a serious wild lands readiness kit carried on wings, on wheels, on skids, or in a boat. And, it’s a good choice for a base camp tool, right beside a good hatchet. Get the particulars on knife dimensions, steel and handle materials at the KA-BAR® BK-2 Page.

“The notion that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion.”  Horace Kephart

A primary cutting instrument for use under challenging survival circumstances or heavy base camp use must not only serve its primary purpose, cutting and chopping efficiently and durably, it must limit stresses on the user. This is where the BK-2 really shines. Becker’s trademark handle is suited for the heavy blade–it suggests a subdued machete handle design that spreads out the stress of forceful chopping and slicing throughout your whole grip. Becker’s forward and aft handle knobs anchor your grip securely like a friendly handshake. The extra large aft handle knob supports your grip during forceful chopping, but its slightly more angular shape is unfriendly when you choke back on the handle for more chopping power, it’s a blister-maker. Wear gloves.

Personally and professionally, I look for blade function more than aesthetics. Early in the 1980’s, and since, with the proliferation of extravagant fantasy knife designs that express the artistic flare of their individual designers at the cost of functional utility, and rarely leave the collector’s cabinet (i.e., a teenager’s junk drawer): Ethan Becker pursued a different path, developing functional aesthetics–joining flesh and heavy metal in purpose-driven design. Becker’s knives get squirreled away in collectors’ cabinets like others, but I’d wager that the greater percentage see heavy use or are important elements of kits for readiness when purchased by true outdoorsmen. The BK-2 is a knife you just want to drive through wood.

Becker BK-2 chopping
Field testing the BK-2, factory sharp. A few more than a dozen chops at each of three positions around the three-inch base cut through this knotty, swaying red maple sapling.

Ethan Becker pursued a different path, developing functional aesthetics–joining flesh and heavy metal in purpose-driven design.

Field testing

My factory sharp BK-2 cut into my small woodlot to field test the knife for function and durability and to do a little TSI (Timber Stand Improvement). I felled the three-inch-plus gnarly red maple sapling in the images, cut it into three sections and carved a baton from one section. I also pounded the BK-2 through some firewood reduction tasks to get a bed of hot coals going for my next task, making and heat treating a serious splitting wedge!

BK-2 field test finished baton
Field test, the BK-2’s factory edge still passes the paper cutting test after felling, sectioning, and carving the red maple baton pictured. Red maple is a soft wood. The BK-2 stands out due to functional aesthetics. The red maple baton was too light, so I made another out of heavier white mulberry.
Becker BK-2 cutting mulberry best
Felling an invasive white mulberry, an exotic hardwood. Chocking back, as seen here, increases chopping power at the expense of discomfort where your fingers wrap the rear handle knob. This handle is designed to anchor a full, firm grasp.
Becker BK-2 cutting mulberry 2
Sectioning white mulberry.
Becker BK-2 cutting mulberry 3
Carving a hardwood wedge for use in heavy splitting.
Becker BK-2 cutting mulberry 4
Heat treating the mulberry wedge to harden and tighten the grain.

A wedge is a proper tool for splitting large diameter limbs. The BK2 is a brute, but you don’t test the limits of your primary survival tool when you need it most. Instead, you leverage its power by using it to make additional tools. Basic day one wilderness survival tools & tasks: baton, wedge, digging stick, feather sticks & fuel reductions, shelter materials. Protect your blade and its sharp edge for later use: deadfall triggers, collecting plant fibers and vines, sharpening  a spear, making a gig, and so on…

A good wilderness survival knife selected for inclusion in remote area readiness kits must be factory sharp and hold its edge through initial bivouac challenges. The BK-2 is an excellent emergency bivouac tool and a fun base camp tool, and much  more…

If I found myself trapped in a crumpled bush plane in Alaska’s Brooks Range, smoke filling the cabin, I’d reach for my BK-2 to cut and pry my way out!

White mulberry wedge in cottonwood
Modern technology intersects primitive technology: My factory sharp BK-2 easily produced the Stone Age tools I’d need if I really needed tools for survival. The factory edge was worn a bit, starting to fail the paper-cutting test, by the time I finished the wedge. Rock and wedge easily split the cottonwood limb braced in the crotch of another fallen limb..

Yes, The BK-2 is an excellent wilderness survival tool!

The BK-2 is our pick for a gap filler. We  will include the BK-2 in moderate-sized readiness kits for conveyance carry.

I like my BK-2 just for basic campfire use!

Tom Bain, Outdoor Readiness

2 thoughts on “Legendary heavy metal, the Becker BK-2 Campanion knife

    1. I did, Thomas. Wayne Russell of Saint John NB was wearing a factory fresh looking BK-2 in its stock sheath. We got a glimpse of the knife in action late in the broadcast. The blade looked like it had a custom grind. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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